ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Mar 30 2015

Cluj-Napoca, Romania. For a little over a month, the 2015 European Youth Capital has witnessed an emerging discourse of hostility towards women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The issue at stake is, not surprisingly, abortion. A group of people, led by a Greek Catholic couple, joined the worldwide Christian movement of “40 Days for Life”, an international campaign against abortion taking place from the 18th of February to the 29th of March. The supporters of the campaign gathered daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the Dominic Stanca Gynecology Clinic in the center of the city, where they stood silently and prayed, holding banners containing anti-choice messages such as “Every life is a gift from God”, “Women deserve more than abortions”, “A voice for the voiceless” or “Every human being has a right to life”. Similar messages were displayed on the 22nd of March, when almost 2,000 people participated in the “March for Life” in the center of Cluj-Napoca. Overall, the campaign has proven to be very successful, attracting volunteers mostly with the aid of a website dedicated to the event and social media.

The movement’s clear attempt at limiting women’s sexual and reproductive rights, as well as at shaming them for ending an unwanted pregnancy was met with some opposition from the general public. Although fewer in number and less organized, groups of pro-choice activists reacted by leaving the following messages on the walls of the clinic: “I respect your religion, respect my decision”, “My body, my choice!”, “Wanted children, not children of the Decree”, referring to the 770 Decree of 1966 during Ceaușescu’s totalitarian regime (it banned abortion in almost all cases, as well as contraception, leading to the death of almost 10,000 women between 1966 and 1989, due to complications arising from illegal abortions). These deaths, as well as the several thousand lives lost in childbirth in communist Romania as a direct consequence of the ban on abortion (during the 1980s, Romania had by far the highest rate of maternal death in Europe, almost triple that of the runner-up - source), seem to have left insufficient marks in the collective memory of Romanians, as a significant number of local newspapers have labeled the pro-choice protests as “vandalism”.

While, in part, the success of the “40 Days for Life” campaign can be attributed to an excellent planning on the side of the organizers, it is undeniable that Romania is witnessing a new wave of religious conservatism, a phenomenon which does not appear to be counteracted by the efforts of secular and women’s rights activists and NGOs.

Source: Equality and Human Rights Action Centre – ACTEDO

Mar 25 2015

“Families of Choice in Poland. Family life of non-heterosexual persons” report is the result of research carried out within the project “Families of Choice in Poland” financed by state budget funds for scientific research and implemented by the Institute of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, (principal investigator Prof. Joanna Mizielińska).

Families of choice are families of non-heterosexuals persons. They do not have social or legal support  in Poland. It is only by their choice that they become and call themselves a family. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals constitute at least 5% of Poland’s society. Consequently, there are about 2 million such people in Poland. It is estimated that half of them live in relationships, with some also raising children. The Families of Choice project included 3038 people from all over Poland from 18 to 81 years of age. All respondents were in a relationship with a same-sex partner (min. 6 months, max. 42 years). Data concerning 287 children being raised by non-heterosexual persons were collected. Half of the children are below 13 years of age.

Access the report in pdf HERE.

Information concerning the whole project and its further parts is available at:


Mar 19 2015

We, young feminists in ALL our diversity, are here to hold our governments accountable to the commitments they have made to guarantee gender equality, eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against us, and achieve the full realisation of all of our human rights. As young feminists, most of us were too young to attend the Beijing Conference in 1995. We acknowledge much has been achieved over the past 20 years in the areas of education, employment opportunities for young women, and political participation of young women in national and regional platforms; however, many gaps remain.

On the occasion of the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the 20-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, we express our deep disappointment at the exclusion of the majority of Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs), women’s rights and feminist organisations from the process of negotiating the political declaration. The CSW must continue to be a platform for CSOs, women’s and feminist organisations to actively, effectively, and meaningfully participate and hold our governments accountable.

Mar 17 2015

As representatives of feminist and women’s organizations and organizations working to promote the full realization of the human rights of women and girls, we express our outrage at the way that we have been excluded from both the negotiation of the political declaration and the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) Methods of Work resolution.

In a context of increasing attacks on the human rights of women and girls and closing space for civil
society at all levels, from the national to the global, we had held up the CSW as a place where we could express our views and influence the development of critical policies that affect our lives and

Instead, it seems that governments are intent on closing even that door by trying to limit the robust participation of non­‐governmental organizations, restrict recognition of the human rights of women and girls and the norm­‐setting role of the CSW in this regard and skirt responsibility for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. It seems they are intent on discussing everything about us, without us.

Let us be clear: we do not come to the CSW to attend side events. We come to the CSW to hold our governments to account to the commitments they have made to guarantee gender equality, eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against us and achieve the full realization of all of our human rights. We come to the CSW to advance progressive policies that, if implemented, will make a meaningful difference in our lives. If the CSW no longer provides us with a forum for policy change and accountability that fully involves us, we will stay home.

Mar 16 2015

ASTRA is concerned with the developments at the 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the future of the CSW and the unexpected and unfavourable towards civil society change of holding the negotiations before the actual 2-week session. We came forward with a statement targeted at countries from ASTRA region.
We call for attention to the issues of unsafe and illegal abortions and lack of comprehensive sexuality education in CEE countries in the space of CSW.
European Union countries
Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Caucasus

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